People often ask me, “where do you get your ideas?” My answer is always the same, “they just seem to drop in on their own.” I know that’s not a very helpful answer, but it’s the truth, and I always tend to think of the ideas as coming from somewhere outside of me. Whether it’s just creative energy floating around in the ether that just happens to land on my brain cells, or whether it’s being fed to me by the spirits of dead writers, or even if it escaping from another dimension that just happens to have strayed too close to this one, I don’t really care.
Many creative people talk about their muse as if it’s a person, and I’m the same. Mine feels like a male, but maybe that’s because I’m a female and subconsciously, I know I need the male energy to complete me. He doesn’t have a name and I haven’t given him one, but I do believe in him as male. He’s fairly easy going most of the time, but he can crack the whip when he feels the need. When he does, he’s persistent and won’t accept being ignored.
His method is subtle though. If I’m ignoring him, he will bombard my brain with ideas, or a single idea, and no matter what I try to do, it won’t go away. If I have a certain direction in which I want to take my story, and that doesn’t match his plan, it’s his way or the highway. I can be typing away quite happily, then suddenly find myself typing stuff I had no intention of typing, with no idea where the idea for those words came from, and it’s usually the polar opposite of what I wanted to do. I’ve come to realise that he knows best, so I always give in and let him have his way. If I’ve been resisting his push for a while, when I do finally give in and write, the story usually pours out like a tidal wave.
I decided a little while ago, to write some more short stories for another anthology, this time paranormal based rather than straight up horror. I had a couple done, and had an idea for a third that kept banging away inside my head for ages. When I finally sat down to write what I thought was going to be a short story of no more than 4k words, it quickly became obvious that His Lordship had other ideas. He wants this to be a book, maybe a novella, but certainly NOT a short story, perish the thought.
This sounds like I’m complaining, but I’m not. I love that the creative force is so strong and active and tangible for me, and I feel sorry for those who don’t feel that way. I don’t know how I could advise those folks.
So who is really in charge? The answer for me is two fold; either the writer takes charge and ignores the muse, or the writer listens to the muse and let’s them direct the story. My personality is one that needs strong leadership and an active ‘hands on’ approach. I need firm but constantly encouraging guidance. I’m one of those types who would thrive in the gym if I had a personal trainer yelling at me all the time. Sometimes I find it hard to motivate myself, so a strong push from outside of myself is what works for me.
I’m happy to let my muse be in control. I trust him completely and never argue, it’s pointless to try anyway. I always say that I don’t actually write my stories, my characters write them, and I just take dictation. I find the whole subject of the muse, fascinating, and would love to know what your experience of it is.